The last time the Baltimore Ravens played the New England Patriots was in last season’s AFC championship game; the Ravens beat the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl.
They face off again on Sunday, this time the Ravens are fighting to reach the playoffs and a chance to win the AFC North.
The Patriots lost last week against the Miami Dolphins and rarely lose two games in a row and the Ravens rarely lose at home. The game promises to be a bitter battle between these AFC rivals.
Both teams look different from last season; while the Ravens defense has many new faces, the Patriots offense is without veteran receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is on injured reserve. While this year’s receiving corps is smaller in height, they are faster and can change directions quickly.
According to NFL.com, without Gronkowski, the Patriots rank 31st in the league in red-zone touchdown efficiency.
The biggest issue of concern for the Ravens is quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco was hit in the knee in last week’s game against the Detroit Lions. He was limited in practice all week and wore a knee brace. He is listed as questionable, but the Ravens say he is likely to play. He will wear the knee brace during the game.
Practicing in a knee brace is one thing, playing in it is another. How much (if at all) will Flacco be affected by the knee injury or the brace? Will he lose his mobility?
The Ravens offensive line needs to step up their game to protect Flacco and give him more time to throw the ball this week.
The Ravens defense needs to apply pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He may have new faces to throw to, but he’s still the same Brady.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of Brady:
“But the offense still runs through Tom Brady, and he drives it. He gets the guys in position. He’s the guy who makes it all work for them. So, it doesn’t really change in that sense. We are still playing Tom Brady.”
Running back Ray Rice and linebacker Elvis Dumervil are listed as questionable.
The Ravens are well versed in facing the Patriots so I have faith that they know how to beat them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Flacco’s knee.
It is the fear of the unknown since a Flacco injury is something we haven’t faced before (knock wood). Since it is out of my hands, I will do what I do best, cross my fingers and have a little faith…